Balanced Leadership

Average Reading Time: 3 minutes 20 seconds

As COVID-19 hit and lock-down measures came into force around the world, leadership teams suddenly found themselves with two key areas of focus; stabilising their businesses and supporting their teams.

In doing so they focused on the task and team components of John Adair’s tried and tested functional approach to leadership.

I first learned this model when I joined the Army at 16, and it has been a core pillar of my leadership philosophy ever since. (If you’re not familiar with the model, you should definitely do some more research into it.)

Whilst our Coronavirus response led us to focus heavily on the task and the team components, this has meant that in many instances the individual component was forgotten.

During a recent coaching session, one Chief Executive who I’m supporting said that in this respect, his leadership team had perhaps been somewhat negligent. Whilst I applaud him for his commitment to step-back and reflect, I disagree with his conclusion.

Whilst Adair suggests that a leader’s job is to balance the needs of the task, the team and the individual – which at times may well be competing – he does not assert that all three areas must be perfectly balanced, moment to moment.

The goal is not to allocate equal time to each need. The goal is to allocate the appropriate amount of time dependent on the situation, the specific task(s) and the experience of the team member(s).

Focusing our efforts initially on stabilising our operations and financial positions, deploying our teams to home, maintaining a sense of team connection and so forth is likely to have been the correct initial response.

But for many of us, it is now the time to pause, reflect and adjust our focus.

Many leadership teams and businesses feel as though they are really under the pump right now. We’re working like Trojans to deliver our products or services in different ways, and in many instances with fewer people because we’ve had to furlough staff.

Or perhaps your sector has never been busier and you’re taking on staff to keep pace with demand; the grocery sector for example.

The challenge, and risk, is that when the pressure builds, our focus narrows.

This means that we can easily forget that those we lead are having wildly different experiences, and challenges, with lockdown and COVID19. Whilst we’re all weathering the same Coronavirus storm, we’re definitely not in the same boat.

Here are some of the experiences I’ve heard about recently:

  • The two working parents struggling to home school two children all working from the dining room table.
  • The single parent of two children trying to do everything alone.
  • The twenty-something feeling worried and alone in their small London flat.
  • The person with an underlying health condition that we don’t know about, but means they are terrified to leave the house.
  • The person with two elderly parents, both with underlying health conditions.
  • The person who has lost a loved one living overseas due to Coronavirus and can’t attend the funeral.

There is likely to be at least one of these people working within your team.

So whilst we must continue to focus on the task at hand and supporting the team, we must also remember the individuals.

Because after all, every single person that we lead is the most important person in the world to somebody else. How we act and behave as leaders doesn’t just have an impact on that person whilst they are at work. We have an impact on how they are at home, and on their loved ones.

So as leaders, let’s strive to be mindful and considerate of what’s going on in the world of those we lead. Even for the most driven, engaged and committed people in our organisations, work may not be their number one priority right now.

And that’s ok.

Perhaps it’s time to switch the daily team check-in to every other day and use the time saved for some one-to-one time with those we lead. I’m certain that it will be a productive use of your time, and the individuals will appreciate the sentiment.


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